Jacoba: I enjoyed your reading of the Ruin Lust exhibition a lot. It made me think about where liveness originates and there are two ideas I’d like to explore a little further.
On the one hand there is space and the body’s interaction with it. Initially I felt a little skeptical about ascribing liveness to ruins, that is until you unfolded how they give expression to the idea of the durational live. I’m quite interested in the idea of the performative experience as an interaction between the physical body and a space. This body being that of the artist – the performance artist, creating work with or without an audience – or that of the viewer, experiencing an installation or interacting with the depictions of ruins as mentioned in your experience of Ruin Lust. This sheds light on how performances by Nigel Rolfe and Danny Devos, done in the privacy of their home or in the middle of nowhere, attain a sense of liveness, even without witnesses.
It is in this (conscious) interaction between space and body that the performative experience of an installation, such as Benedict Drew Heads May Roll or the Richard Hamilton installations at ICA, lie. Additionally, because of the potential of liveness, that through encouraging an interaction between body and space performance artists can present their work in a manner that both challenges and conforms to exhibition practices. I’m thinking here of Devos’ A Study for the Happiest Man Alive at Annie Gentils Gallery, where the gallery space was transformed into a maze with triplex walls. The walls had windows cut into them, either down low or high up, which posed a physical challenge if you wanted to see the videos hidden in the spaces. In this manner, Devos wants to transfer the performative experience of his live work to the gallery space. He does so again, in an even more extreme manner, with his current exhibition Picnic at Hanssenspark in Bruges, where he has recreated a park inside an old warehouse. Visitors travel across paths, under bridges and over grass fields to encounter residues of his work in the form of installations or print outs of his Birth(+)Fact(x)Death(-)Calendar (Devos’ ongoing Internet performance, if you wish). All of this is a far cry from the traditional, sterile white cube experience, and injects the viewing experience with a liveness, a sense of the unending, the openness and unexpectedness of live performances.
On the other hand, I’d like to consider liveness as originating in a series of exchanges between people. I really like the image of you and your grandmother exchanging, narrating, your memories of Tintern Abbey. Aside from pointing towards a durational live encapsulated in the ruin, it also uncovers another aspect in which liveness can reside, i.e. in the afterlife of a (performative) experience. The afterlife perpetuates and completes the durational live. Only when the performance lives on in one way or another, it can really be.
This idea was also voiced by Sven Lütticken in his keynote address at the Playground symposium: touching upon the idea of the durational live, Lütticken strongly feels there is in fact no distinction between life and afterlife:
What is the temporality, the fractured and multiple temporality, of performance’s afterlife? To ask this question means to acknowledge that there is no real division between object and subject, between the historical material and the contemporary researcher or observer: the time of performance is after all not equivalent to the time span – say, forty minutes – that some performance originally took: the time of performance is unfinished, open-ended, it penetrates the present a number of different ways (Lütticken 2010).
Lütticken suggested to think of a performance in terms of an event, i.e. an occurrence that is incomplete, or, rather, too full of potential. Without afterlife, in other words, there can be no event, and the afterlife resides in the myth, stories, and memories told by witnesses as well as the performer or in the photographs and videos taken by the audience, the residue that remains after the performance. The afterlife relies heavily (though not exclusively) on the presence of other people engaging with the act of the performance artist.
From this perspective, liveness appears to originate in the interaction between people. Between the performer and audience – where the performer picks up the energy of the viewers to execute his work, and where the audience is affected by the piece and takes the memory and possible remains with them -, and after that by the witnesses of the event with others.
Thinking about liveness it is these two elements that seem to come back again and again. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, on the contrary I think they can complement each other. It’s fascinating to ruminate on liveness and where it originates.. I’m sure we can dig deeper. I’m curious to hear your thoughts about this.
This post is a response to 03/04
Read Bryony’s response here
Sven Lütticken, lecture, Playground Symposium, STUK, Leuven, Belgium 2010. (http://www.stuk.be/en/manifold-afterlives-performance-ii)